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Enter Dag Hammarskjold

May 03, 2010
Enter Dag Hammarskjold

"Before Thee, Father,
In righteousness and humility,
With thee, Brother
In faith and courage,
In thee, Spirit
in stillness
Thine, for thy will is my destiny,
Dedicated, for my destiny is to be used and used up according to thy will."*

Those words were written by Dag Hammarskjold, a Swedish statesman. Dag was born on this day, July 29, 1905. His family were well-to-do Lutherans. His father had a long career as a civil servant and even served as Sweden's prime minister. Dag's mother was deeply religious. Among the family's close friends was Nathan Soderblom, head of the Swedish Lutheran church and a strong advocate of Christian ecumenism (Christians settling disagreements and working together).

Although Dag was outwardly successful in everything he undertook, inwardly he was in turmoil. He rejected his family's Lutheran faith and felt empty. Like his father, he entered the civil service. In America, he would be called a "liberal," for he was one of those who pressed for Sweden's planned economy--a socialist experiment. He became chairman of Sweden's National Bank.

Eventually his fairness, moral uprightness, hard work and conscientious attitude moved him to the international stage. In 1953, he was made Secretary-General of the United Nations in a world that was slipping into the cold war. Dag labored hard to defuse world crises and to save the U. N. charter. He successfully resolved the serious crisis when Egypt's President Nassar nationalized the Suez Canal and France and Britain invaded the Sinai.

Meanwhile, his search for spiritual meaning continued. He read the writings of Christian mystics. After he died in a plane crash, trying to defuse a situation in the Congo, his collection of spiritual jottings was published under the name Markings. This book surprised the world. It showed that Dag had found personal faith in God. The poem at the top of this page is from Markings. A few pages later, Dag referred to the hours of Christ's crucifixion when he wrote:

"The third hour. And the ninth. --They are here. And now. They are now! 'Jesus will be in agony even to the end of the world. We must not sleep during that time.' (Pascal) We must not--And for the watcher in the far-off present--also present in his contact with mankind among whom, at every moment, Jesus dies in someone who has followed the trail marks of the inner road to the end:

love and patience,
righteousness and humility,
faith and courage,


  1. Centola, Kathleen Gefell. "Dag Hammarskjold." Historic World Leaders. Anne Commire, editor; Deborah Klezmer, associate editor. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994.
  2. "Dag Hammarskjold - Biography." Nobel Prize Organization.
  3. Hammarskjold, Dag. Markings. Translated by Leif Sjoberg and W. H. Auden. London: Faber, 1964. *Source of the Quotes.
  4. Various encyclopedia and internet articles.

Last updated June, 2007


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